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Customer experience? Let’s start with your business fundamentals

By Brian Ladyman
Two customers shop for groceries.

I’ve written a few blogs about great (and not-so-great) customer experiences. Over the years I’ve found that clients often have similar problems inhibiting better customer experiences, regardless of their different goals, products, services, and customers.

Innovative experiences are built on strong fundamentals

Data, technology, processes, and people can make or break a great customer experience. These are the types of customer experience challenges we commonly see:

Data isn’t sufficiently connected

When you have vast amounts of customer data that isn’t connected through a master customer ID, both you and the customer suffer. This varies business to business—sometimes it’s as basic as the bank teller knowing you have a checking account, credit card, and home loan. Other times it’s as advanced as tying complex behavioral web data to your next email communication. If you’re facing challenges determining the best investments to connect data, you’re not alone.

Technical debt is holding you back from new technologies

“Technical debt.” Two of the most demoralizing words. Many clients are excited about the latest cloud-based technology and applications, but must tackle a large backlog of technical debt first if they’re going to keep basic operational and customer systems going. These clients struggle to turn their attention toward the right technologies for the future.

In the era of cloud applications, we also see business groups moving forward with technologies independent of IT. More and more, we’re helping our clients determine how to best align the business and IT toward the same goals and working better together.

Processes aren’t documented or followed

We see many companies struggle with processes supporting the customer experience. For example, my son was recently in a minor car accident while skateboarding without a helmet. The lesson learned? Avoid accidents because the insurance and medical processes are more excruciating than the accident itself. One rep says we owe $X, another says we owe $Y; one says call this number, another says email this address. The lack of cohesion and inconsistency has left us both completely baffled and frustrated. As medical and insurance customers, we’re not impressed.

People aren’t always working as a cohesive team

Misaligned executives, siloed teams, and unskilled employees will hinder you from improving customer experiences. People are the lifeblood of business; they’re the ones coming up with ideas and doing the work. Finding top tier talent, managing culture change, and training workers is hard in today’s fast-paced world. Getting people to work together to deliver great customer experiences is critical to success—especially now.

So, what’s the solution? How do we solve these issues and create the wow moments our customers crave?

Five ways to get to wow:

Here are ways to combat some of those challenges and improve your customer experience:

1: Get your crew

First and foremost, align your company’s leaders. Find your visionaries (the big idea people) and your action heroes (the ones who can really land things). Work together to create your ideal customer experience, and get the wrong people off the bus. I’ve worked with clients that have had to remove executives who were the right people in the past, but not right for the future. If your gut tells you someone isn’t going to help drive your company forward, listen to it. You need to start with a team of leaders who are prepared to make the right investments and prioritizations.

2: See the Mona Lisa

A client recently shared that he and a few other leaders from his company took a trip to Europe to visit other companies and understand their digital transformations. I loved that. Get out and do the same. Take a tour of your customer and employee experiences, take a tour of your competitors’ experiences, and visit other leaders and industries for inspiration. This will help you clearly define your differentiated brand strategy and solidify a future vision with your leadership crew.

Look for moments of truth and wow moments. Think about what really matters to the customer, then take it a step further. We invited some client executives out to dinner a few weeks ago and demonstrated our customer obsession by perfecting all the details from location, to service, to food. Our “wow moment” was when we provided Pike Place flower bouquets for our clients to take home to their spouses.

3: Be ruthless

Stick to your guns. Say yes and no. Think, “What are the experiences we really need to get this right?” From there, prioritize and roadmap data, technology, process, and people needs to make sure your time is well spent and meaningful. If you’re not saying no, you’re taking on too much. Prioritization is one of the biggest challenges in moving from where you are today to where you want to be. Get a plan, stick to it, and periodically readjust. Your aligned leadership team will be crucial to making these tough decisions.

4: Get sprightly

Focus on culture and people. Culture is what creates cohesion; it’s what makes your frontline people smile at your customers. Extend your crew to the rest of the company and focus on building a culture focused on spirit, vitality, innovation, and experimentation. Processes are important, but processes without culture will fall short.

5: Stop and smell the roses

Appreciate, celebrate, measure, adjust, and repeat. You will make progress, so recognize it. Know that growth takes time, and don’t let where you want to be take you away from how far you’ve come. With that in mind, measure often as you travel down the path. Tracking things like your experiences, sales, and visitors, will enable you to make changes and optimize. Appreciate what you’ve done but ask yourself, “How can I make this even better?”

Incredible customer experiences take work. Aligning executives, setting a common vision, and infusing the right culture are just a few of the fundamentals to get on—and progress down—the right path.

Let’s solve together.